Animism, Tagaq’s third album, beat out Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days, Owen Pallett’s In Conflict, Basia Bulat’s Tall Tall Shadow, Jessy Lanza’s Pull My Hair Back, Shad’s Flying Colours, Timber Timbre’s Hot Dreams and YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN’s UZU to take the award and $30,000 prize.
The outspoken singer, who has spoken about her indigenous peoples’ reliance on seal for food, clothing and other uses, was blunt in her acceptance speech, saying, in part, “People should wear and eat seal as much as possible. An indigenous culture is thriving and surviving on a renewable resource: wearing and eating seal. It’s delicious, and there’s lots of them, and fuck PETA.” Earlier this year, Tagaq raised the ire of animal rights activists after posting a picture of her daughter next to a dead seal. She subsequently received online death threats.
“A lot of my music career has been protest music without words, because it’s very difficult to discuss these issues in Canada, because you bring up native rights and people just roll their eyes and put on their party pow wow headdress or whatever,” the singer told Vice. “It’s really difficult to get through the clouded mentality.”
The singer first earned notice when Björk invited her on her 2000 world tour. Tagaq, who self-describes her unique guttural vocal style as “Scream. Grunt. Growl, groan. Flutter. Quiver. Howl,” would later appear on Björk’s 2004 a capella album Medulla and the 2005 soundtrack for Matthew Barney’s film Drawing Restraint 9. She released her debut album, Sinaa, in 2005, featuring vocals from Björk and various throat singers. Auk/Blood, her second album featuring Mike Patton and Canadian rapper/singer Buck 65, would follow in 2008.
Nominees for the list are compiled by an independent group of more than 200 music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers from across Canada, though an 11-person Grand Jury — chosen from that larger pool — selected Tagaq as the winner. Organizers said in a statement that the award goes to an album based on “artistic merit without regard to genre, sales history or label affiliation.” Orchestral post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor won last year for their album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!.